Disclaimer: Not meant to infringe on any copyrights held by MCA Universal, or Renaissance Pictures. There is, indeed, sex ahead, so if you aren't of age, find that sort of thing offensive, or it's illegal where you are, you shouldn't continue, and if you do, it's at your own peril. Do not try this at home. These are trained stunt characters, and any unbelievable activities are done through a complex combination of special effects, and camera tricks.

ALL TIED UP WITH NOWHERE TO...GO?

By Pink Rabbit Productions

It wasn't the nicest of village taverns in ancient Greece, but it wasn't the worst either. The dirt floor on the ground level was spread with clean rushes, and a fire burned warm and bright in the huge stone fireplace. Cheerful sounds emanated from the farmers and traders who frequented the tables, their hands stained from working the dark loamy earth. Occasionally, they glanced at the lone warrior who sat alone in one corner. Warlords were a rarity in these parts, but the men weren't especially concerned. Most had heard of the warrior princess' turnabout. Besides, it was a quiet town. No self respecting warlord would have bothered.

Silently nursing a mug of rich, dark wine, Xena watched men come and go with curious eyes. It had been a long time since she'd been in a town this peaceful. She frowned slightly, trying to remember the name of the little hamlet without much success ... Magradon ... Magrathea ... Malaprops ... something like that ...Oh well, at least she and Gabrielle had managed to get a decent room. The idea of a real bed for the night, was more than a little appealing. If the truth be known, even a warrior's back can get tired of cold, rocky ground. She worked her shoulders experimentally, feeling tight muscles pull across the back. She was definitely going to have to con Gabrielle into a massage.

Speaking of which...it suddenly occurred to the warrior that she hadn't seen her companion in some hours...and it was getting close to dinner time. Gabrielle never missed a meal ... at least not willingly. That last thought made Xena's brows draw together in a hint of frown. As quiet as the village appeared to be, she wasn't especially worried. On the other hand, the bard did have a unique knack for calamity. One day (the Fates willing, many years hence) she would doubtless find the only warlord who managed to sneak into the Elysian Fields. He would unquestionably hold a knife to her throat. Xena would have to rescue her and the whole thing would get very messy.

It would ruin Hades whole day--which actually wasn't that bad an idea, now that she thought about it.

Xena shook off the slightly outlandish musings and tried to convince herself that nothing was wrong. There was no need for her to run off half-cocked. The bard had probably found a falafel stand and was indulging herself, which was why she hadn't shown up for dinner. Xena had last seen her with a group of village children, so she'd probably decided to treat them all. That was it. That would take some time. Right? A bunch of screaming brats all wanting falafel would not be quick.

That had to be it. Falafel and kids. Simple explanation.

There was nothing wrong. Nothing whatsoever.

That was when she noticed it was dark out, and any children in the village had undoubtedly been due home at least an hour before.

Well, okay, Gabrielle had gotten caught at the falafel stand after the children went home. That was undoubtedly the answer.

Yep, that had to be it.

There was nothing wrong whatsoever.

Except that as far as Xena could tell, this village didn't have a falafel stand.

She resettled her sword on her back and hurried out of the tavern.

A quick check of the village revealed dark, empty streets and alleys. And absolutely no falafel stand. Xena had a sinking feeling.

After all, Gabrielle was so very good at getting into trouble.

She did a slow pivot, orienting herself as she tried to remember with direction the bard and the children had been aimed the last time she saw them. That way, she decided at last, and struggled to dredge up the snatches of childish chatter she'd overheard. They'd said something about playing a game, but for the life of her, she couldn't remember what. Not that it necessarily mattered, but the information might offer a further clue about the bard's whereabouts. As she moved through the village, she listened for any sign of parental tears or worry, that might have indicated missing offspring, but the houses were quiet, except for the normal sounds of life going on inside. That meant that if something had happened to the bard, it occurred when she was alone. If any of the village children had gone missing, there would have been an alarm by that time.

Xena padded around the exterior a darkened shop, noting the locked windows and bolted doors. The rest of the shops she passed were just as dark. Only the tavern at her back and a few homes showed any signs of life. She passed the outer boundary of the village and continued a short way down the road without finding any trace of Gabrielle. The warrior let out a worried sigh, pivoting slowly as she hunted the blue-black night for some sign of her friend. She was about to backtrack when she spotted a familiar sight in the shadows near a half tumbled down barn. Xena hurried over, reaching out a tentative hand. Strong fingers curved to smooth wood.

Gabrielle's staff.

Eyes alert, muscles tense, she rose with feline grace, every instinct razor sharp. The bard was close. She could feel it. A moment later, she became aware of muffled sounds coming from within the building. The warrior set the staff aside and drew her sword, then set about searching until she found a broken section in the bard wall. She peered through the hole, her vantage point revealing only the unused interior of a stall. Soft sounds assailed her ears, convincing her that her friend was somewhere inside. Leading with her sword, she carefully crept through the space, pausing momentarily while her eyes adjusted to the darkness.

The smell of dusty hay hung heavy in the air, along with the scents of rusting iron and old wood. It wasn't an unpleasant odor, merely musty, but lacking any tinge of blood, or death. The warrior prowled forward, drawn by the continuing noises, only to pull up short as she spotted Gabrielle.

The bard stood in the center of the barn, her arms drawn spread eagle over her head by ropes that bound her to the center pillars. A cloth gag had been stuffed in her mouth, but there were no visible cuts or bruises, nor any sign of who might have left her there. Her face twisted in total concentration, she let out a series of soft grunts as she tried to yank her hands free.

Xena experienced a familiar glimmer of pride as she noted the way the bardís muscles knotted with effort. Gabrielle was growing into a very impressive young woman...and if her kidnappers had harmed her at all, they were going to wish they'd never been born. She ran her thumb lightly along the sharp edge of her blade. In fact they'd wish their parents had never even looked at each other with lustful thoughts.

As if sensing her friend's presence, the bard suddenly looked up, eyes widening when she recognized the warrior's tall form crouched in the shadows. She started yanking that much harder on the ropes, growling what sounded like curses through the thick gag.

Wanting to make certain they were alone before she revealed herself, Xena held a finger to her lips, but the bard only increased her struggles. The warrior made another quieting motion, which again increased her friend's efforts to escape. Usually, that meant Gabrielle was being used as a pawn to trap her and was trying to warn her before a dozen armed warriors dropped down on them both.

Xena searched the open rafters overhead for any sign of attack.

Nothing.

Gabrielle was shouting through her gag. It sounded like Xena's name coupled with something else. She wished the girl would stop now. She'd gotten the point and the continued struggles ran the risk of drawing attention to the rescue effort.

Definitely a trap.

Her footsteps perfectly silent, Xena circled the outer edge of the barn without seeing anything threatening. Her enemy must be extraordinarily clever. Draco, or Cortese, perhaps even Callisto. She never seemed to stay dead for long.

Gabrielle continued trying to warn her while she circled around behind her, carefully hunting for any sign of ambush. The floor was packed dirt covered in straw. She used her sword to make certain no one had tried to dig a pit and cover it over.

Nothing, the floor was sound.

Her sword held at the ready, she moved forward, senses alert and ready for anything. She yanked Gabrielle's gag down.

Crick.

Something moved nearby, and the warrior spun, ready for battle. A small grey mouse took one look at her, squawked, and fled for all it was worth. "Where are they?" she hissed at Gabrielle, her heart pounding in her chest.

"Went home for dinner, I imagine," the bard panted, working her jaw in an effort to relax kinked muscles.

"Dinner?" Xena repeated. "Why would a warlord go to the effort of kidnapping you, then go home for dinner?"

"Warlord?" Gabrielle repeated on a note of confusion.

Xena spun, her tone gentle and understanding as she explained to her obviously confused companion. "The one who kidnapped you." Probably, they'd hit on her on the head, and she wasn't thinking very clearly.

The bard twisted to peer back over her shoulder. "That's why you..." she started to say, comprehension threading through her voice. She shook her head, chagrin glittering in her eyes. "I wasn't kidnapped."

Now, it was Xena's turn for confusion. Ropes, a gag, an abandoned barn...it all added up to a kidnapping as far as she was concerned. "Then wha--"

The bard looked embarrassed. "The village children..." she said by way of explanation. "Could you...uh..." she started to ask Xena to cut her down, but the warrior cut her off.

"Excuse me?" Xena growled. She didn't understand what was going on, and Xena hated being confused. It always left her grumpy. And a grumpy Xena is not a good thing. "What village children?"

Gabrielle flashed a look at the ropes binding her to the pillars. "The ones who left me here."

Xena's eyes slid around the empty barn. "Are you telling me children did this?"

Gabrielle shrugged, her cheeks pinking with embarrassment. "We were playing warlords, and peasants. I was the warlord...."

Xena's expression fell. She couldn't quite believe what she was hearing. "You're telling me, a group of children tied you up there?" If this was true, the bard had not been listening to her lessons. More training was definitely in order.

Now Gabrielle looked really embarrassed. "There was this one little blond girl who was quite a tactician.... Now, if you'd just--"

Again Xena cut her off. "I don't believe this," she muttered, spinning away so quickly her hair flew like a dark cape. Fury glittered in her pale eyes, but Gabrielle couldn't see it, so she babbled on.

"Yeah, I know. They were outside plotting what to do next, when their mothers started calling. I think they just forgo--"

"I thought you were really IN DANGER!!" Xena bellowed as she spun back.

Gabrielle's brows drew together. "Oh ... sorry ... if you could just untie my wrists, then you can yell at me all you want."

Xena never heard the last part of Gabrielle's request. "Sorry?" she snapped and worked a hand through her hair. "I think I lost ten years off my life ... and you're sorry?" She paced to let off steam

"Well, it's not like I planned it." Gabrielle tugged on the ropes. "D'you think you could--"

"I thought Callisto, or Cortese, or someone else equally nasty had gotten to you, and it was just a bunch of children."

"Well, yes, but...the ropes..." Gabrielle said hopefully.

Xena never heard her. "I cannot believe you were that inconsiderate."

"Yes, I know, but...could you please untie me?"

"I mean, I thought we were friends--"

"XENA!!" It was Gabrielle's turn to bellow.

Xena pivoted on one heel to stare at her friend as though she'd grown a spare head. "What?" she muttered at last.

Gabrielle shook her bound hands in silent reminder. "The ropes?" she snapped. "Do you think you could untie the ropes?"

Xena thought about the request for a moment, then suddenly folded her arms across her chest and turned a wicked smile on her companion. "I don't think so."

"And then we can go get some din..." It too the bard a beat to process her refusal, and change gears. "ner...." she croaked. "What do you mean, you don't think so?"

"You said you were playing the warlord," she drawled, deciding it was time for Gabrielle to get a little bit of her own medicine. A slow smile tugged at the warrior princess' full lips. "Surely you know about the code."

"The code?" the bard repeated doubtfully before dismissing it and changing the subject back to her imprisonment. "Look, Xena, would you just get me down from here, then you can talk about codes all you want."

"No."

"No?" Gabrielle demanded. "What do you mean 'No'?"

Xena paced around behind the younger woman, her gaze openly assessing. "I mean, no. It's a little tradition among warlords. When one of us gets trapped by the local villagers, we never help each other out."

"Ha, ha...very funny." Gabrielle really loved Xena, but there were days the warrior's sense of humor really got on her nerves. This was shaping up to be one of them. "You're right, I was careless. Now, would you please let me down."

"Nope." Xena barely kept a chortle out of her voice. "In fact, we usually bribe the villagers into handing over the opposing warlord...." She leaned in close to Gabrielle's left shoulder, her voice wickedly soft. "Then the real fun begins."

"Xena." A quiver vibrated down Gabrielle's spine, and she twisted in an effort to get a look at the her expression. She couldn't quite get around, but she could feel the passion beating through the warrior's veins. "You're kidding me, right?" she groaned. She recognized that note in her lover's voice. It said, I want you here and now, no holds barred. Gabrielle sighed softly. Some days, Xena's timing was unique, to say the least. A triumphant chuckle ruffled the bard's hair.

"You should know by now, I never joke." Xena swept her hands up Gabrielle's widespread arms. "Usually, you tie the enemy up...just like this..." She brushed her fingertips along the soft skin of the bard's inner wrists, her sensitive touch picking up the faint fluttering beat of her pulse. Her heart was beating like a frightened hare's, but fear wasn't the cause. She never could resist Xena's touch.

Gabrielle tipped her head back, moistening her lips. "There's a really nice... soft bed ... back at the inn," she offered temptingly. "All you have to do is cut me down."

Xena chuckled again, her breath ruffling the bard's soft hair. "No dice," she exhaled, then trailed her hands down Gabrielle's bare arms, tracing the play of well-toned muscles. She worked one hand into her lover's thick hair, tugging her head even farther back. Xena peered down at the smaller woman with a mock-threatening look. "As a warlord, you should have at least some plan for escape."

"Oh, I do," Gabrielle drawled and trailed her tongue seductively over her lips. "But it involves the bed...back at the inn...."

One dark eyebrow lifted, and temptation glittered in Xena's sky blue eyes. For just a moment, the bard thought she'd won, then the warrior shook her head. "Not good enough," she teased. "A warlord should always have a plan."

"But, I'm not--"

"Shh," Xena hissed. "You're a prisoner of an enemy warlord...remember?" She smiled in a flash of perfect white teeth. "And do you know what warlords do to their prisoners?"

The bard swallowed hard. "Take them to warm inns with big beds and make mad, passionate love to them?" she queried hopefully.

That earned her another toothy smile. "Not quite," Xena disagreed cheerfully. She was tempted, but Gabrielle wouldn't learn anything that way. Besides, she liked the idea of making a little noise. "First," she breathed, leaning close to Gabrielle's ear. She nipped the delicate lobe lightly, grinning at the answering shudder that slid over the smaller woman. Her little bard was so responsive, sometimes it made her head spin. She swallowed hard before continuing. "First, you tell the prisoner what's going to happen to them. It makes it all that much more...intense...." She slipped a hand around Gabrielle's torso, spreading her palm against the well- defined muscles that banded her abdomen, using her hold to draw her back until they stood pressed back to chest. She nipped the delicate shell of her ear again, and her voice dropped to little more than a lover's caress, threaded with a cool note of erotic threat. "I'm going to make you mad with need until all you know is me, and all you can think of is what I'm doing to you...and then, you're going to scream for me...like you've never done before."

Gabrielle shivered, already aroused simply from the softly uttered words. She should have known Xena would do this. She always had to find a way to work off the stress that accompanied any good scare. Before they became lovers, she'd have spent endless hours in practice with her sword, since...well, since then, she'd found another method for working off unwanted stress...one that often left Gabrielle bleary eyed and limping the next day. Not that Xena was ever rough--the bard knew that if she seriously complained, her lover would cut her down--but she could be insatiable. "Promises, promises," she sighed. This might not be her ideal place for making love, but Xena hadn't disappointed her so far, leaving her more than willing to play along.

Triumph made the warrior's eyes glow in the faint light. "The next thing you do is strip your prisoner...." She loosened the tie that held the front of Gabrielle's blouse closed, spreading the rough fabric. She couldn't remove the top without freeing Gabrielle's wrists, or tearing the cloth.

As if sensing that turn of thought, the bard flashed her a hard look. "Don't even think it," she warned. "This is my last blouse, and we have no more money...so unless you're in the mood to do some weaving..." she trailed off suggestively. The green might not be her favorite, but at this point, it was all she had left that was in one piece.

Xena managed a sheepish smile and shook her head in surrender. She might be a warrior princess, but she knew better than to get on the bard's bad side. When sufficiently annoyed, she inevitably fought dirty. Namely, she told the single most embarrassing tale of Xena: Warrior Princess, she could think of. Joxer always seemed to figure prominently. Xena hated that. "Well, they don't have to be completely stripped," she allowed, then dropped her hands to narrow hips. "Mostly...is fine."

"It had better be," the bard threatened. "Or I'll start leaving out the fact that it was really Meg who kissed Joxer."

"You wouldn't," the warrior whimpered.

"Just try me."

"Brute," Xena muttered under her breath.

"I really think that's an unfair complaint, in view of that fact that I'm the one tied up here."

Xena's eyes lifted to the ropes, and the infectious grin returned. "You are, aren't you." The momentary lapse in her passion over, she untied the rust skirt wrapped around the bard's waist, flicking it aside with casual disdain. She stepped back to admire the view. Gabrielle really did have a beautiful body, small and compact, but perfectly proportioned. She trailed a finger over a knotted bicep. And she had such wonderful skin; smooth, uncallused, and gently tanned. Xena leaned forward to taste a sensitive cord in her throat, drinking in the smell and taste of her flesh. "Perfect," she exhaled, cupping her hands to slender hips before sliding them around and down to the sweet curve of Gabrielle's backside. "Very nice," the warrior exhaled with raw appreciation. She leaned close, her breath ruffling silky hair. "Soft as a baby's bottom."

Gabrielle's stomach muscles contracted in anticipation of the path trailed over her body by Xena's powerful hands. The knowing caresses were everywhere, teasing her hips, breasts, belly, everything except the sensitive center of need at the juncture of her thighs. Her head tipped back against a supportive shoulder as she sank into the influx of sensation.

"Maybe a little too soft for a warlord," Xena decided aloud.

Gabrielle blinked, needing a moment to decode the softly spoken words., Finally, she nodded, hoping that Xena had rethought that whole bed idea. "Not even a warrior..." she sighed. "Just a travelling bard."

"Could be," the warrior admitted. "But then again, that could be nothing more than a clever disguise." She measured one of Gabrielle's upper arms with her hand. "Awfully muscular for a bard...I dunno...looks pretty suspicious to me." Her fingers brushed over the dusting of hair at the base of Gabrielle's belly, pulling back a notch when the bard thrust her hips forward in open invitation. Xena shook her head, laughing very softly. "I guess I'll just have to torture you to make sure."

Gabrielle groaned in disappointment when the warm flesh, bronze, and leather pressed against her back, suddenly disappeared. A moment later, she recognized the soft sounds of armor being removed. The complex bronze swirls that denoted Xena's cuirass hit the floor near the base of one of the pillars, followed by her arm guards, then her boots. "I didn't realize both warlords had to be nude," the bard commented with a trace of humor.

Xena's corselet joined the growing pile of clothes, then Gabrielle felt the press of full breasts against her back. "Oh, it's much better that way," the warrior assured her. "Much more exciting." She bent down to retrieve a long stalk of dry hay, then spun it experimentally, noting the soft, frayed ends. It was perfect, for what she intended. "Particularly when the actual torture begins ... it can be very ... stimulating .... torturing ... someone ..." Her slow drawl put a distinctively sexual spin on the words.

"Really?" Gabrielle questioned, trying, without success, to twist around and see what was happening.

"Really," Xena confirmed. "It begins like a tiger's kiss," she whispered, and twirled the hay as she drew it from Gabrielle's right shoulder, across and down to her left hip. "Raw, but controlled ..." She drew another line, this time starting at Gabrielle's left shoulder, and ending at her right hip.

Muscles made strong by steady work with a staff, pulled taut and a soft groan was torn from the bard's throat. In her mind, Xena was like the tiger, wild, untamed, graceful, capable of feral rage, or unending tenderness. Some days, it was a little frightening, loving someone so unpredictable, but it had its rewards. Gabrielle shuddered as Xena teased her hip with the stiff threads of straw, then dragged it on another diagonal path across her hips and shoulders.

"It gets steadily wilder." The tiny strand of thatch left lines of sensual fire across the bard's back until she was dizzy with need. Who would have thought such a delicate caress could light such a fire of need. She wrapped her hands in the rope, trying to gain either freedom or support.

"Please," she gasped, mildly amazed she could get the word out.

Xena chuckled softly, and guided the bard's head back with her free hand, mouth coming down on warm lips to share a hungry, open- mouthed kiss comprised of equal parts give and take. She dropped her hand from thick hair, tasting the gasp of surprise and pleasure as she palmed the warmth of Gabrielle's sex. Knowing the anticipation would only improve the experience, she kept her hand perfectly still, refusing to fondle inviting flesh, even when the bard's hips thrust against her touch in silent supplication. Still kissing her lover, she teased the feathered piece of hay over her breasts, and belly, drawing long, low moans.

"Please," the bard begged against Xena's mouth.

The warrior broke the kiss, fluttering her lips over her lover's closed eyes. "Yes," she breathed against velvet skin. Long fingers slid through and over Gabrielle's most intimate flesh, setting off bright dancing flares of pleasure. Xena dropped silken kisses along the brace of her lover's shoulders, tasting the perfume and faint salt of her skin. She pushed her fingers deeper into damp warmth, feeling muscles tighten around her hand. The first thrusts were slow and easy, deepening naturally as she set a slow rhythm that perfectly matched the soft kisses she feathered down the curve of Gabrielle's spine. Working her way lower, she slipped to her knees, feeling the cool of the dirt and warm prickles of hay as she tasted the faint indentation at the small of Gabrielle's back. She tasted and smelled so good. A small piece of the Elysian fields to overwhelm the senses.

Xena brushed sharp teeth along the curve of Gabrielle's hip, feeling the way her muscles clenched in response. Chuckling softly, she pressed a light kiss into the dimple at the meeting of thigh and hip, then widened her mouth against the softness of one smooth buttock, biting very gently.

That drew another low groan.

Xena sat back on her heels, eyes sweeping up the length of the bard's figure. Her head dangled from her shoulders and she was clinging to the ropes to stay upright, while a fine sheen of sweat covered her entire body. "Warlord, or bard?" Xena demanded, stilling the steady thrust of her fingers.

"Huh?" Gabrielle exhaled weakly.

"Warlord or bard...which are you? The torture's not finished until you answer."

Gabrielle twisted around to glare down at her lover. "If you leave me like this," she threatened. "I will kill you."

Xena laughed softly, then repeated her question. "Warlord or bard?"

"Bard," Gabrielle sighed. "Most definitely, a bard."

"That's okay then," the warrior princess murmured, snatching her sword from its sheath as she rose to her feet. "I won't have to kill you ... except maybe with pleasure." She tightened her hold on her lover's midsection, pulling her close, and swung the sword overhead. The blade thunked into the right pillar, slicing through the heavy hemp rope, then thumped into the left pillar, cutting that rope as well. The blade thudded to the floor a second later, followed in close succession by Gabrielle's forest green top.

No longer supported by the thick ropes, the bard's knees buckled. Xena felt it start to happen and wrapped an arm around her waist, cushioning her slide to her hands and knees and following right behind. She covered her lover's smaller form, her chest pressed tightly to Gabrielle's back, their legs scissored together. One hand braced on the floor she tangled the other in the bard's pale hair drawing her head back and up with controlled strength. Sweet breath fanned across the warrior's face, then she reclaimed soft lips with passionate hunger. Still drinking thirstily from her lover's mouth, Xena slipped her hand free of the bard's hair and down the length of her body, drinking in answering gasp as she pushed her fingers deep. "That's it," Xena moaned against her lover's lips as they moved together in natural syncopation.

The position increased the contact of flesh on flesh, creating a steady building of erotic friction. Gabrielle felt the brush of soft, damp curls against the back of her thigh, and shifted to increase the sensual pressure. She knew she'd gotten it right when she heard a soft gasp of surprise from the warrior pressed so intimately close. Together, they climbed higher, losing themselves in each other until the rest of the world ceded into nonexistance. They were the entire universe.

Feeling the oncoming wave of orgasm, Xena broke the kiss, ran her teeth along the sharp edge of Gabrielle's shoulder. Leaning heavily on one hand, she increased the tempo of her thrusts and used her thumb to tease the quivering nerve center at the top of the bard's sex. Bolts of raw pleasure accompanied every lunge as her breasts and sex rubbed against Gabrielle's back and thigh. "I want you to scream for me, Gabrielle," she panted raggedly.

"Wha?" the bard gasped, not understanding. At that point, she wasn't understanding much past raw physical passion.

Xena nipped her shoulder lightly. "I want you to scream," she panted. On the road, they usually made love quietly, not wanting to risk attracting unwanted attention from any passing travelers. The inns they used were even worse, with paper-thin walls and lecherous guests. "Let go," Xena instructed. "Don't hold anything back."

"But...."

"Don't worry. We're far enough from town ... no one will hear." She thrust hard, accelerating the hard driving pace. "Scream for me," she repeated.

As if drawn by the note of command in the warrior's voice, delight swept through overheated nerve endings. Awash in sensation, Gabrielle braced herself on one hand and reached over her shoulder with the other, fingers clawing into rich dark hair. She needed every bit of possible contact.

"Let go," Xena repeated huskily, her own orgasm threatening to throw her into the abyss.

Suddenly, the bard tipped her head back, a low cry erupting from her throat.

The keening sob set off bright fires of passion at the back of Xena's brain. "Scream," she said again, pressing her face into Gabrielle's hair as hard shudders shook her lean frame.

The bard's breath caught for a heartbeat, muscles drawn piano-wire taut. "I love you," she whispered almost inaudibly, before drawing a deep breath. The cry started low in her chest, gaining volume and momentum in time with her raging orgasm. She was aware of every inch of Xena's body pressed against hers, felt every quivering muscle, every silken thrust until she barely knew where, or even who she was. At some instinctive level, she knew the moment her lover reached her own climax and pressed that much harder against her muscled frame. Carnal pleasure raced through the two like a wildfire on a windy day, whipping and burning over sensitized flesh, until the conflagration left them both spent and exhausted.

Suddenly weak in the aftermath, Gabrielle's elbow buckled, and she collapsed into the warm hay. Xena followed her the remaining distance to the floor only slightly less ungracefully, coiling her arms around her lover, while she buried her nose in pale red hair. "That was..." the warrior groaned, only to trail off when she couldn't think of a word anywhere near sufficient to describe the experience.

"Wasn't it though?" Gabrielle sighed and flopped over onto her back to smile up at Xena. The remains of her bonds still trailed from her narrow wrists in hemp streamers. Sighing softly, she peeled the ropes off.

Xena gently framed Gabrielle's heart shaped face with a large hand. "You are so beautiful," she whispered tenderly before sharing a slow kiss. Xena folded a muscled leg across her lover's thigh and rested her chin on a narrow shoulder. Exhausted, they lay together for a long time, warm, sweaty skin, cooling in the night air.

Xena finally pushed up on one elbow to stare down at Gabrielle's peaceful features. She plucked a stray strand of straw from the bard's hair and used it to tease her full lips.

Gabrielle blew gently and a soft smile touched her lips. "Stop that," she murmured sleepily.

Xena chuckled, her blood already running a little thicker in her veins. "We really should get back to the inn," she prodded her satiated lover.

Gabrielle opened one eye to peer up at her. "Right ... the inn...."

"Hmm ... large, wooden building ... big bed ... clean sheets," Xena clarified helpfully.

Gabrielle sighed blearily, knowing her lover well enough to be quite certain that the night was far from over. "Probably not a bad idea," she admitted through a fuzzy grin.

The warrior flashed an evil smile, then rose with a lazy, long-limbed grace that set the bard's pulse hammering. She shook her head. Xena always seemed to do that to her and had from the first. She reached back when Xena offered a hand, fingers twining with the warrior's. Powerful muscles flexed gently, and she was drawn to her feet and against Xena's chest for another teasing kiss. By the time they broke apart, they were both breathing hard.

"The inn," Gabrielle prompted. If they didn't leave soon, they'd never get there, or at least not for quite awhile. "Bed, sheets, all that good stuff."

Xena shook her head in an effort to clear it, grinning as she reached for her clothes. Having decided to return to the inn, they were both determined not to make love until they got there, and neither one was anxious to run through the town naked.

Both women dressed in record time.

Still slipping on the last of her arm guards, Xena turned to face her young lover. Gabrielle was looking particularly self satisfied. "So," the warrior drawled. "Did you really get outsmarted by a bunch of rug rats, or did you pay them to tie you up...knowing I'd find you...."

One fine blond brow lifted in open disapproval. "Xena," the bard chastised. "You don't really think I'm that conniving, do you?"

The warrior princess shrugged.

"Well, I'm not," Gabrielle assured her, waiting a beat before she continued, a suggestive grin touching her full mouth. "Although, I think I should point out that your method of teaching me a lesson may not prevent me from making the mistake again."

"Scare me like that again and I'll turn you over my knee," Xena threatened as she wrapped her arms around the bard, tugging her close to drop a light kiss on her nose.

"Nah," Gabrielle dismissed. "Not my thing. How about some other game?"

Xena threw back her head, guffawing with full-throated humor. "I'm sure we can think of something," she laughed at last.

And they did....and did...and did....and did...

 

THE END

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